First Commercial Perovskite Solar Late in 2019 and the Road to Moving the Energy Needle

Saule Technologies is a leading company working on to commercialize perovskites solar cells.

They launched a pilot commercial production line for inkjet printing of perovskites solar cells.

They plan to reach 40,000 square meters of panels by the end of 2019 and 180,000 square meters by the end of 2020. The world’ first, large-scale prototype production line will be ready at the end of 2019. It will be the Saule Technology plant in Warsaw, Poland.

The world added 104 gigawatts of solar power in 2018. Solar power generates 150 to 360 watts per square meter. The power generated depends upon the technology and how sunny the location is where the panels are placed. The world added 300 to 500 billion square meters of solar panels in 2018. The pilot perovskite production levels need to be scaled up a million times.

Potential of Perovskite Solar for Lower Cost Energy

There are estimates that perovskite solar panels could cost just 10 to 20 cents per watt, compared to 75 cents per watt for traditional silicon-based panels — anywhere from 3X to 8X cost savings.

The ingredients used to create perovskite are widely available and inexpensive to combine, since it can be done at relatively low temperatures (around 100ºC). Silicon cells need to be heated to high temperatures (as high as 900ºC) to remove defects, which is a costly process.

Silicate perovskite may form up to 93% of the lower mantle, and the magnesium iron form is considered to be the most abundant mineral in Planet Earth, making up 38% of its volume.

Versatility: Perovskite rolls have a thin, flexible and lightweight structure due to this processing, unlike silicon wafers, which tend to be thick, heavy and rigid. Because of this versatility, perovskite could theoretically be placed on roof shingles, windows or pretty much any surface imaginable. This versatility is what could enable solar to reach a scale that eventually eliminates dependence on fossil fuels entirely.

Efficiency: As mentioned above, perovskite’s conversion efficiency has increased at an astounding rate over the last five years — from 4 percent to nearly 20 percent. And this is just the beginning — the theoretical limit of perovskite’s conversion efficiency is about 66 percent, compared to silicon’s theoretical limit of about 32 percent.

However, land and the metal structures for the solar farms would not be reduced from lower cost solar panels. Land and structure would only be reduced if the conversion efficiency was increased. The theoretical 66% efficiency would be double the potential of silicon and triple the current commercial solar efficiency.

Working Towards High Speed Roll to Roll Manufacturing

The US National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is making progress towards scalable roll-to-roll fabrication of Perovskite Solar Cells.

The dream of roll-to-roll printing of solar cells is to achieve the speed of color newspaper printing speeds.

In 2005, the Mitsubishi Diamond star was the world’s fastest double width newspaper offset press. It is as tall as a four-story building with a printing speed of 90,000 full color, 96-page broadsheet copies per hour. This is nearly 1 million square meters of pages per hour.

Nextbigfuture Reader Goatguy has Some Analysis of Saule Technology’s Panel

What is the actual output of the quoted 1.3 square meter panel?

If it is substantially near 200 watts, then that is excellent, and comparable to silicon.

… ( 200 W ÷ 1.3 m² ÷ 1,000 W/m² (nominal) = 0.154 or 15.4% efficient. ) ÷ (fill factor)

Could be higher if the “fill factor” of the 1.3 m² isn’t very close to 100%. (Fill factor = (active area) / (total area))

THE NEXT QUESTION would be “how does this new method handle wind, rain, ionic contamination, snow, bird droppings, city-grime build-up?”

As far as I remember, this is the perovskite Achilles Heel: it needs to be quite well sealed against the environment, as humidity (and ions, and …) promote rapid breakdown of the material. The first almost-successful perovskite solar cells were actually vacuum-deposited on the inside of common fluorescent long tube bulbs. Not the actual bulbs, but the packaging, since it must maintain a vacuum for potentially decades, and has hundreds of large-scale manufacturing operations around the world, making the format quite cheap (low research) to produce.

Even the electrical connections of the fluorescent tube method was useful! (There are 2 main standards, the common double-pin at each end, and the less common single-large-pin “instant start” format. Obviously, the single-pin would be generally better; having fiddled with my share of double-pin fluorescents in my life, I can attest to the fact that they’re vexingly squirrelly most of the time.)

Anyway, perhaps if the issues with environmental sequestering and passivation have now been handled, and a robust 15%+ spray-on cell is possible, then there really might be a revolution in power generation in the offing.

Written by Goatguy and Brian Wang.